MANILA — The Sandiganbayan Special 2nd Division has dismissed the graft and technical malversation cases filed against Cebu Governor Gwendolyn Garcia over an irregular purchase of land submerged in seawater in 2008.
In a decision promulgated on Nov. 26, the anti-graft court granted the demurrer to evidence filed by Garcia as well as her co-accused, namely: Juan Bolo, Emme Gingoyo, Anthony Sususco, Roy Salubre, Eulogio Pelayre, Romeo Balili, and Amparo Balili.
In the complaint filed by the Ombudsman against Garcia, the P98.9 million Balili Estate in Naga City was bought for the use of the provincial government but a large portion submerged in seawater proved to be unsuitable for planned infrastructure projects.
It was noted in the decision that the certificates of title remained free from any annotation or memorandum of encumbrances.
“From the foregoing, it is clear that the prosecution failed to muster the required quantum of evidence. There being no sufficient basis to sustain the indictments, the court is left with no choice but to dismiss the cases,” the decision read.
The decision was penned by Associate Lorifel Lacap Pahimna with the concurrence of Associate Justices Michael Frederick Musngi and Maria Theresa Mendoza-Arcega.
In his dissenting opinion, Division Chairperson Oscar Herrera, Jr. meanwhile pointed out that there was a prima facie evidence against Garcia such as the testimony of former Vice Governor Agnes Magpale who said that the provincial board did not deliberate on the issue of submerged parts of the property.
“I strongly submit that the testimonies of the prosecution witnesses and the numerous documentary evidence submitted to substantiate the same, as discussed above, are prima facie sufficient for the conviction of the accused of the crimes charged in these cases, unless successfully rebutted by defense evidence,” said Herrera.
But the anti-graft court noted that the body of water within the Balili properties may be due to the displacement of water caused by continuous reclamation projects and construction of dikes in adjacent properties.